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Health care at risk as NSSF on verge of collapse

The National Social Security Fund headquarters in Beirut, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: An array of problems persists at the National Social Security Fund that risks the collapse of Lebanon’s major health care and social protection system, experts said at a lecture held in Beirut Friday.

“The persisting conflict between the NSSF, [private] hospitals and the doctors’ associations risk health care and social benefits in Lebanon,” the secretary-general of the Lebanese Order of Physicians, Sami Rayshouni, said at the event organized by the Friends of Kamal Jumblatt Association.

Rayshouni said the NSSF fees paid to physicians have not been amended for many years despite soaring living expenses. “Doctors are fundamental partners in NSSF’s health services and we have to come up with solutions through a serious dialogue,” he said.

Financial director of the NSSF Sami Youssef said a major reason behind financial problems at the Fund was the continuous delays by the government in paying its 25-percent share of the Fund’s budget. “The government is also responsible for the payment of subscription fees for employees in public administrations and institutions.”

Some experts estimate the government owes the NSSF in excess of $500 million in arrears.

Bahije Arbid, adviser to the Health Ministry, called for modernizing the NSSF by upgrading information systems and utilizing electronic health cards to help cut squandering and improve services.

George Hajj, head of Lebanese Bank Association employees, said public health care had reached catastrophic levels, citing examples from the Rafik Hariri University Hospital and other public hospitals. “These hospitals are no longer able to offer health care to citizens [because of financial problems].”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 10, 2012, on page 4.

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